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Music

Quick Tip: Getting Realism in Orchestral Music

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

Getting the best of an orchestral library is sometimes the worst nightmare for a composer or orchestrator. The main goal is to make a mock-up that sounds as real as if the melody was played by a huge group of professional musicians.

There are lots of ways to achieve that, and in this quick tip I'll explain a way to get that tense and dynamic staccatto feeling in your music. By the end of the tutorial, we'll try avoiding the so-called “machine gun” effect of very synthesized orchestral sounds.

Here's our melody – 4 bars of eight-notes with constant rhythm.


Load Different RR Samples

In the demo above you can hear five instrument groups playing – contrabasses, celli, violas and both violins (first and second). I loaded default staccatto patches for all of them, making no velocity or volume tweaks. Therefore we get the “machine gun effect” that can blow your ears off!

First load the RR samples. What does RR mean? "Round-robin articulation", which means that for each tone of the instrument diapazone we have various types of recordings – each one with different attack, velocity, volume and so on.

So, practically, if we have loaded the sample “VCS Spiccato RRx6” this means that each six notes would be unique. This gives us a feeling of realism.

Also, you can load different types of articulations – spiccatto, staccatto, up-down bows, marcatto, martelle and so on. They are all short articulations, and having different sounds can add colour to your orchestration. Keep in mind that this won't be practical if you have your work played by live orchestra.

The one problem with RR samples is that they are heavier than the normal ones – so you must have a stable and fast machine.


Make Velocity Changes

After you've loaded up the RR samples try to edit the velocity of each tone. Imagine for a while that you are a conductor, standing in front of around 60 players (strings only). When they start playing, they won't play two identical notes – especially when it comes to volume.

So, going back to the MIDI orchestration, when you make slight velocity edits, you can add additional realism to your music. Sometimes this could take much of your time and you can use some helpful tools like randomizer plugins.


Humanize

The humanize technique can help you achieve the “live” sound of your music. This helps you escape the quantize-jail, and add slight rhythmic MIDI notes as it would be played by a live player.

No human player can possibly play as exact as a computer. Remember those 60 players we were talking about? It isn't possible for them all to start playing at the exact time – every time one of them would be a bit late or early. And this is that magic that we all feel when we go to a concert (whether we're listening to Haydn or U2).

As you can hear from the final demo, there is audible difference between where we started at the beginning and when we found ourselves at the end. I hope I gave you some inspiration and ideas about sequencing music.

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